The Town of Yates has changed its law to put more restrictions on where wind turbines can be erected as part of its continuing battle to keep the Lighthouse Wind project out of town.
The amendments prohibit wind energy conversion systems from being built within three miles of the Lake Ontario shoreline and within a half mile to one mile from other parts of the town in Orleans County.
Apex Clean Energy has proposed building up to 70 turbines, each up to 620 feet tall including the propeller blades, in Yates and neighboring Somerset. They would be the tallest turbines in the nation, generating enough electricity to power 53,000 homes.
But the two towns are officially opposed to the project after surveying their property owners in 2015 and finding 2-to-1 margins against the plan.
Apex "could certainly challenge it, I hope they don’t," Yates Supervisor James Simon said of the new law, passed unanimously Thursday by the Town Board.
It increases setbacks from roads, homes, boundaries with other towns and property without turbines to a half mile or six times the height of the turbine, and prohibits turbines within one mile of any village, hamlet, school, church or cemetery.
The Town of Somerset, in Niagara County, on Jan. 29 passed a similar law that banned structures more than 150 feet tall and imposed stringent zoning limitations on the location of wind turbines. The result would make it almost impossible for Apex Clean Energy to construct its proposed wind-power project in the town.
Taylor Quarles, Lighthouse Wind development manager, said the company is "disappointed" by the new laws. He said the company has signed leases with more than 100 property owners in Yates and Somerset, covering about 10,000 acres.
"These excessive setbacks severely restrict landowners use of their land, as well as residents’ chance to benefit from a wind project," Quarles said. He said the setbacks in the Yates law are far larger than any imposed on any wind project in the state.
Once Apex files a detailed application listing the exact proposed turbine locations, the project requires approval from a siting board comprising five state officials and two local residents. State law allows that board to disregard local laws against wind power if it concludes the laws are "unreasonably burdensome in view of the existing technology or the needs of or costs to ratepayers whether located inside or outside of such municipality."
Simon said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommends no wind turbines within three miles of the shore to avoid possible severe impact on avian flyways and habitat.
"We're doing what we think is appropriate for the town, the character of the town," Simon said.